The Toronto Marlies were left frustrated by the dropped point as they slipped to a shootout defeat to Bridgeport at the Coca Cola Coliseum on Sunday.
The Marlies produced some of their best hockey of late to stick with a very talented Bridgeport team, but they gifted the Sound Tigers a pair of goals and failed to take advantage of several opportunities to win the game in the third period.
The opening period produced a combined 22 shots on goal, but there was little in the way of scoring chances from the high-danger areas.
Kasimir Kaskisuo was making his first start in a fortnight and was sharp early to rob Kieffer Bellows after a turnover from Kristians Rubins in front of his own net.
Barring a couple of efforts from Adam Brooks and a Rasmus Sandin rush down the left side, Toronto didn’t really threaten offensively until the 13-minute mark when Pierre Engvall sprung Michael Carcone with a stretch pass, but Jeremy Smith turned him aside with a good save. Hooked on the play, Carcone was awarded a penalty shot but fired the effort wide of the target.
Bridgeport’s lone power play of the period resulted in Kaskisuo turning aside a booming one-time shot from Mike Sislo, leaving the two teams deadlocked at 0-0 heading into the first intermission.
The middle frame was an action-packed 20 minutes, but Toronto often lacked the composure and the final bit of quality needed to take a stranglehold on the game.
The Marlies began on a power play carried over from the first period but were thankful for a heroic shot block from Zach O’Brien to deny Bridgeport a shorthanded marker.
Toronto’s top line was beginning to find their groove in the middle frame, but Brooks fired wide of an open net after excellent work from Nick Baptiste and Jeremy Bracco.
The opening goal finally arrived at the nine-minute mark and it was a case of perseverance paying off for the Marlies. Rasmus Sandin initially did well to keep the puck in the offensive zone before Vincent LoVerde saw his shot blocked. After picking up the loose puck, Carcone scored on his own rebound through traffic.
Not for the first time this season, the Marlies imploded after taking the lead and gifted the Sound Tigers two goals inside 87 seconds. The first was an errant pass by Colin Greening in his own zone that was picked off by Bellows before Jeff Kubiak applied the finishing touch.
Four-on-four play then followed the goal due to a disagreement between Bracco and Ryan Bourque before the restart. In the extra open ice, Carcone was riding the offensive blue line with the puck on his stick and his errant no-look reverse pass fell perfectly on the tape of Josh Ho-Sang, who went down and scored on a breakaway.
Bridgeport should have made Toronto pay for another offensive zone turnover — this time by Baptiste — but Tanner Fritz fired wide with half a net to aim at during a 2-on-1 break.
A late double minor penalty taken by Chris Bourque gave the Marlies a perfect chance to make it a new hockey game heading into the third, and they took full advantage. Shortly after Baptiste was stonewalled by Smith, Dmytro Timashov finished from the left side as Toronto zipped the puck around with pace and purpose on the man advantage.
The final frame failed to produce a winning goal, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of scoring opportunities.
A power play for the Sound Tigers with 12 minutes remaining led to a great chance for Steve Bernier, but Kaskisuo pulled off a good stop to keep the game tied.
Toronto built off that and Greening almost made up for his earlier mistake by netting short-handed, but Smith came up with two excellent saves.
The Marlies then took control of the game from that point on, but Smith was outstanding between the pipes for Bridgeport as he turned aside all 18 shots he faced — the best of which came through Brooks and the unlucky Baptiste, who somehow is still yet to open his scoring account for the Marlies.
Bridgeport turned the tables in overtime and were pushing the play until a penalty with 1:34 remaining in the extra frame. The Marlies were guilty of being a little too deliberate and only really tested Smith on one occasion, meaning a shootout was required to decide the extra point.
Despite Timashov’s highlight-reel goal with a Nikita Kucherov special, Bridgeport scored twice without reply to secure the extra point.
Post Game Notes
– Toronto’s longest win streak of the season remains at three after this shootout loss, but a four-game point streak (3-0-1) has given them a seven-point buffer over Utica and Belleville in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
– Jeremy Bracco registered his 60th point of the season with the primary assist on the game tying goal. Bracco has six points in as many games and continues to lead the league in assists (44).
– Kasimir Kaskisuo posted 32 saves in a return to form that Sheldon Keefe attributed to his hard work in training of late. That’s an excellent sign for the team with a tough schedule upcoming, including a three-in-three.
“Kas has really been working and was prepared for this today,” said Sheldon Keefe. “You can tell it’s because of the work he has put in. He definitely gave us a chance to get points in this game.”
– Rasmus Sandin has five points in his past five games (1-4-5) and his assist in this game was his 10th of the year.
– Dmytro Timashov has now scored in three straight games and has five goals in his last six.
– Adam Brooks produced a season-high seven shots on goal but failed to register a point as the top line brought out the best in goaltender Jeremy Smith.
– Calle Rosen and Andreas Borgman remain out through injury. According to Sheldon Keefe, “We’re not expecting them back any time soon.”
– Sunday’s lines: